SPARTA, Ky., Friday, Aug. 2, 2002 -- Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Belterra Casino Indy 300 on Sunday, Aug. 11 at Kentucky Speedway. MBNA Pole Qualifying and practice are Aug. 10 (quotes listed in alphabetical ...
SPARTA, Ky., Friday, Aug. 2, 2002 -- Quotes from selected Indy Racing League drivers about the Belterra Casino Indy 300 on Sunday, Aug. 11 at Kentucky Speedway. MBNA Pole Qualifying and practice are Aug. 10 (quotes listed in alphabetical order):
ALEX BARRON (No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year): "We did some testing there; it was an extremely smooth track. It's a 1.5-mile track and will be a good track for overtaking and great racing. The smooth track and sharp, tight corners will be good for overtaking on the exits and entries of the corners. It's great to see the fans support Blair Racing and the IRL so strongly. I think Kentucky will have the stands packed, too. We're still fifth in the drivers' standings but lost a bit after the Michigan race. We did not lose a position but lost valuable championship points on the drivers and teams ahead of us. There are four races left, and we need to make a big impact for our team to continue in the points chase for this year and the development going into the 2003 season."
BILLY BOAT (No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I think that with four races left in the season, the focus of the CURB Records team for Kentucky is really to try and break out of the little slump we've been in. I feel that the team is ready to break through with some top finishes, and hopefully the Kentucky Speedway will be the place to do it. We've been knocking on the door to success. The car is fast; we've just not been able to put the pieces together. With the newly repaved surface, I expect that the racing at the Kentucky Speedway will be even better than ever. Fans will see a lot side-by-side racing with increased speeds from last year."
RAUL BOESEL (No. 12 Bradley Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I've never raced at Kentucky, but on paper it looks a lot like Kansas where we had a good car after the first stop. We need to improve our qualifying efforts. At Kansas and Nashville, we got behind early, and it cost us the opportunity to contend for the win at both races. The Bradley team is working hard to resolve the issues we had at Michigan that really prevented us from contending there. I think we'll get back on track, building momentum in Kentucky."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "I really love the track. We had a fun race last year with Buddy (Lazier) and came up a little short, so we're really ready to race here again. Our cars have been very strong in testing here this season, and we're hoping we can translate that performance into success on race day. We're due. We're more than due in terms of what we're capable of."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Earlier this week, Marlboro Team Penske tested at Kentucky Speedway for the first time. Testing on these new tracks is always important because it gives us a chance to get a base setup and try things that we don't have time to do on a race weekend. I really liked the layout; the track is very wide and smooth, and Turns 3 and 4 remind me a bit of Kansas Speedway. It was good to have my teammate, Gil (de Ferran), there because it allowed us to simulate race conditions to some degree by seeing how the car handled when passing and running in traffic. All of the Indy Racing League events have been very exciting this season, and the Kentucky race should be a great show for the fans."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, won True Value IROC race in 2000 at Michigan): "At Michigan we finally had a near perfect weekend that allowed every employee of Red Bull Cheever Racing and TWR Engines to celebrate. But one victory is not near enough. We are looking at the final five events of the IRL series as our own championship, and we intend to do everything possible to win every one of these races. We our working on our game plan for Kentucky, and will announce it next week."
GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, Indy Racing League points leader): "This week's test was Marlboro Team Penske's first experience at Kentucky Speedway, and I have to say I'm quite impressed with the facilities. The track has a lot of grip, and the quality of the asphalt is very high. Plus it's very wide, which will allow for some excellent racing. It was very important to get that test in before we race there next week because it gave us a feel for the track. Since it's only a two-day event, we'll want to be about 90% ready to go when we unload the trucks, and hopefully the data we obtained at the test will allow us to start with a good setup. As the 2002 season draws to a close, each race gains importance and having a good race here in Kentucky will be vital to our championship hopes."
SARAH FISHER (No. 23 Team Smart Blade/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone): "The difference with Kentucky is that we've tested, our first test of the season. We will be better prepared than ever before and one step ahead when the weekend starts. The track is more universal all around with the resurfacing, and it feels like a bullring compared to running at Michigan last weekend, which is great for me since that is what I grew up on. Every track is different than in the past this year with our new (G Force) cars and new Infiniti engine package. The Dreyer & Reinbold team has given me a car that is very consistent, and it's great that we aren't starting from a brand-new page every weekend. Hopefully we will be able to finish this race two spots higher than we did two years ago (when she finished third)."
FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, 2001 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year): "I haven't been there since last year, and it's a new track for the team, as well. But I hear the track is a lot smoother than last year, when I struggled all weekend with my old team. This year, I think our mile-and-a-half oval setup is working pretty well. We had a handle on things at Kansas, even though the race result wasn't our best this season, and we were OK at Texas. We'll just show up and build upon the good things we learned at the other mile-and-a-half tracks and go from there. It's going to be hard to get the right adjustments because we hadn't had time to test there. A lot of teams got a chance to do that. But sometimes when you don't test, it's a good thing because you may not get as lost with the setup. You're reacting to conditions the way they actually are on race weekend and not the conditions you had when you tested. It might be a stretch to say that, but I'm just looking for something good about showing up cold on race weekend. Hopefully, conditions will be close to what they were at Kansas and Texas. It's still going to be very hard to run with the Infinitis, as it has been all year. We had a lead on them at the end of the race at Michigan, but they finished very strong. At least we beat the guys we're racing for in the points and gained some ground there. Hopefully we'll have some good results in the last few races, and we'll be in position for the championship."
RICHIE HEARN (No. 20 BG Products/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I am really looking forward to Kentucky. Even more so, however, because it is only the second track we have been able to test at. We completed long runs and found a really good balance with the car. This track is very similar to Kansas where we qualified ninth and raced in the top five all day. The No. 20 BG Products race car tends to have a great deal of mechanical grip, therefore we are hoping for hot weather and a greasy track. I believe we can excel and have a chance at a win if the conditions are like Kansas. The team is really focused and has great momentum with eight top 10's in 11 races."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Chevrolet is working really hard to find us some extra horsepower for these last four races to try to beat some of those other guys out there. We're pretty stoked. We were down there testing this week. We think we've got a fairly good shot at it. We know the car will work good on the long run. We just have to wait and see what happens as far as qualifying and what the weather does. It was hot out. It could change, but it was nearly 100 degrees (during testing). So we have a pretty good idea of what the car's going to do." (About Kentucky Speedway compared to other 1.5-mile tracks): "It's a little bit rougher, it's a little bit flatter, and a little bit longer duration in the corners, so not quite as long of straightaways. Kentucky's a fun little place to race at just because of the fact that it's really wide, and as long as the marbles don't build up, you can run three or four wide. We have to pick up about four and a half points per race to win the championship. I think that's possible, definitely. I think we were only about 10 points ahead of (Buddy) Lazier last year going into the St. Louis race, and at the end of the year we were over 100 ahead. It's easy to build some points if you get some luck and your competitors don't."
GEORGE MACK (No. 31 310 Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone): "I have no idea what to expect heading into the Kentucky Belterra Casino Indy 300 except that the track is a decent size. Hopefully we will have some good weather and our car will perform. Our goal is to walk away from this race with a finish somewhere in the top 15. As I approach each race I have to do a lot of homework because every track is new to me, and they are all very different. I guess that is part of the trials of being a rookie. You really have to try to familiarize yourself with each new situation as fast as possible. I usually start by looking them up on the Internet to try to figure out my strategy. Our team will use the first session in Kentucky to try and gauge what we look to accomplish and how we will go about it. I think all the drivers are looking forward to racing in Kentucky, especially after the exciting race that took place last week. Part of the intrigue of IRL racing is that you never know what is going to happen. It is a very exciting series to be a part of. Everyone involved with the IRL, especially the drivers and teams, have been very gracious about helping out the 310 Racing team and myself this year."